When you first move to New Orleans, you're really just a glorified tourist … and some might argue that even after five years of living here, you're still just a glorified tourist (just one that now knows how to pronounce everything properly). But after being here awhile, you start to travel off the beaten path to where the real New Orleans lies … away from Bourbon St. Eventually, you roll your eyes if anyone suggests going there … and if you have a visitor in town, you try to explain why it's not a good idea to hang out there too much. And though I still love it, many residents would advise out-of-town friends to skip the French Quarter all together, citing that it's played out, nothing but a tourist trap.

In a way that's true … it seems like whenever I've sat down at a bar in one of the places that caters more to tourists, like the ones selling those tall sweet neon green drinks, and a bartender asks where I'm from … I hesitate. Technically, I'mfrom Ohio. But technically, I also live down the street. And they always seem slightly surprised when I tell them I live in New Orleans. They're like, what are you doing here? But then an almost look of relief floods their features … like, oh my god, a normal person, not someone who can't pronounce Burgundy Street.

But I still love going to the French Quarter, I don't think it'll ever lose its luster for me. As a visitor, it's usually where you first stay, where you first fall in love. It's dreamy in the way that sometimes it feels as if you're traveling to the past with its gas lamps, horse-drawn carriages, and old-world architecture. Sure, there's also that mix of vomit, urine, and trash that permeates the air at times, but if you think about it, it probably smelled even worse back in those long gone romantic eras that the French Quarter invokes.

There are a few things that will always hold a special place in heart … and maybe it's because I'm not really from here, and will always be kind of infatuated and starry-eyed about the city that someone who grew up here finds old-hat. Like, sometimes I'll be strolling down Royal Street on a rather beautiful balmy evening with my New Orleanian husband and I'll ask him, "isn't this amazing? I mean, WE LIVE HERE!" … and he'll shrug his shoulders and be like "meh".

Here are a few of the French Quarter staples that I'll totally admit to still loving … in all its touristy glory. And I regret nothing.


French Market

I go here to get new sunglasses as most of them are 2 for 10 bucks. Can't beat that. I have a whole collection that I've added to over the years, usually for some costume or other, but I seem to have to buy a new pair of aviators every 6 months or so. I wear my aviators everywhere, they're like a security blanket sometimes … and no matter how much money I pay for them, they always break or get scratched up after a few months, so why not buy a pair for a few dollars from a French Market stand? There's also always cool stuff being sold there, not just Mardi Gras beads and alligator-head back scratchers.

Also, the pina colada from the Organic Banana is practically euphoric. Plus, I just love calling it the "banana stand" … there's always money in the banana stand!


Pat O' Brien's

When hanging out in the Quarter for whatever reason, whether its for a parade or a special weekend, or if I just biked there for the hell of it, I like to get a hurricane to go. It's really the only drink you need … as you only need one to make you feel pretty damn good. They're also quite tasty. It's also fun to just hang out there sometimes if the weather is nice, as it has a pretty gorgeous courtyard with a cool fountain. I dig the fountain.


Jean Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop

Sure, the beers are like, 5 dollars, but the place just looks so cool and is associated with piracy. Plus, it's apparently haunted, and I learned this through …


Haunted Tours

I still love these things even though I've been on so many of them, as I always have visitors who like to go on tours. It's to the point where I know all the stories by heart and could probably just walk around telling them to my guests myself. But I don't have that certain flair that you need … or a proper pirate shirt that seems to be a requirement to be a haunted tour guide. It's the history buff inside of me that loves this kind of thing … and an appreciation for a good story-teller, even if the stories are about 80% bullshit. Also, drinking a hurricane beforehand (or during) can make the experience even more entertaining.


Pizza at one of those Bourbon St. pizza shops

Here's the thing, I know good food. I know that I could eat half-priced amazing gourmet actual-Italian inspired pizza at Domenica for happy hour … but there's just something about those Bourbon St. pizza places at 3 in the morning. I don't understand it, but I love it. All I need is a few slices of cheese pizza and I'm in heaven … I'm off in my own little world of cheesy doughy bliss.


Lucky Dog

Another guilty pleasure. A really guilty pleasure. Sometimes while in the Quarter, I'll gravitate to Bourbon St. just so I have an excuse for a Lucky Dog. But they have to be plain … I don't like all the bells and whistles on a hot dog. Not even ketchup. Just a plain lovely wonderful Lucky Dog.


Cafe Du Monde

It's probably one of the most picturesque spots in New Orleans … right by Jackson Square, right by the river. I only really like to go at night, when its not super-crowded. It always amazes me exactly how quickly you get served … you order and then poof! Your beignets appear in a cloud of powdered sugar. I've gotten accustomed to dipping them in a cafe au lait, and I don't think it'll ever get old for me. Though I wouldn't recommend ever using their bathroom, unless it's Mardi Gras and your only other option is an overflowing port-o-pottie.


So that's my list … there are of course, other more-hidden gems in the French Quarter that only well-seasoned travelers and locals know about … but I'll leave those for another post.